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If you’ve ever yawned your way through one of those compulsory workplace safety seminars, you know that keeping yourself intact in the office is actually not that hard.
But for some Apple employees moving into the gorgeous “spaceship” headquarters of Apple Park, not getting a concussion has proved to be a bit of a challenge.
The circular 2.8 million-square-foot (260,000 square-metre) building is an incredible architectural feat that allegedly cost US$5 billion to construct over five years. It was conceived by the late Steve Jobs and brought to life by British celebrity architect Norman Foster and team.
There’s a lot of glass featured in the new Apple headquarters – including the mind-blowing four-storey sliding glass doors of the cafeteria. When employees started moving in earlier this year, the world quickly caught wind of a nasty side-effect of this design decision.
Straight away, several staff members walked into glass panes, and on at least three occasions the injuries were bad enough to warrant a 911 call, according to reports by the San Fancisco Chronicle.
The call transcripts acquired by the newspaper would be more comical if people hadn’t actually gotten hurt, of course. But either way, here are some highlights from one of the calls made on 2 January 2018.
Dispatcher: …so tell me exactly what happened.
Caller: We had an individual who ran into a glass wall pane and they hit their head. They have a small cut on their head and they are bleeding, slightly disoriented. We have on site security with them right now.
Dispatcher: Is he awake?
Caller: He is conscious.
Dispatcher: Is he breathing?
Caller: That we do not know. Yes, yes, he’s conscious and breathing.
Dispatcher: Let me go ahead here and update the paramedics. When did this happen?
Caller: It happened around five minutes ago. Around 12:05.
Dispatcher: Is there any serious bleeding?
Caller: Yes, from the head.
After giving some step-by-step advice on how to proceed, the dispatcher sent the paramedics over.
But that wasn’t the only call 911 received from 1 Apple Park Way on that day.
Dispatchers have to make absolutely sure the medical team has clear instructions on where to go, which can result in some hilarious exchanges, even when one of the most famous brands in the world is involved:
Dispatcher: Sheriff emergency 336. What’s the address of the emergency?
Caller: It’s going to be 1 Apple Park, Cupertino. It’s going to be a medical emergency.
Dispatcher: It’s give me one moment … Can you verify the address of the emergency please?
Caller: It’s going to be 1 Apple Park Way, Cupertino.
Dispatcher: OK and is that a business? What building is it in?
Caller: Yes, it’s going to be Apple campus.
After determining where the responders need to go, the staff then had to describe what happened, while the dispatcher tried to clarify how bad the situation was:
Dispatcher: Tell me exactly what happened.
Caller: OK. So we had an employee, he was on campus and he walked into a glass window, hitting his head, has a little bit of a cut on the eyebrow.
Dispatcher: Does he have a bleeding disorder or is on blood thinners?
Caller: Not to our knowledge.
Dispatcher: Give me one moment to update them.
Person near caller, in the background: There’s a cut on the eyebrow. According to our, let’s call it, first aid certified personnel it looks like it’s going to (require) stitches.
Two days later, another call from Apple Park. This time there was no bleeding, at least – and the employee seemed a bit embarrassed over his misadventure.
Dispatcher: Tell me exactly what happened.
Patient: Um, I walked into a glass door on the first floor of Apple Park when I was trying to go outside, which was very silly.
Dispatcher: You keep breaking up. You walked through a glass door?
Patient: I didn’t walk through a glass door. I walked into a glass door.
Dispatcher: OK, one second. Did you injure your head?
Patient: I hit my head.
You can read the full transcripts over at The Chronicle, and according to the newspaper, Cupertino building official Albert Salvador isn’t particularly surprised that this transpired.
“We did recognise that this is going to be an issue, especially when they clean the glass,” Salvador told Wendy Lee of The Chronicle.
“When you clean the windows, you can’t even tell some of them are there.”
Apparently, the safety officials noted there’s no specific regulation that says office workers should be protected against walking into glass panes, but workplace hazards do have to be identified.
Salvador also said that the architectural firm did place a bunch of rectangular stickers on the glass back in December, but it sounds like it wasn’t enough to prevent at least some injuries.
Other reports online have mentioned that distracted employees kept walking into the glass and even put up sticky notes to mark the presence of the invisible walls.
“However, the notes were removed because they detracted from the building’s design,” Mark Bergen reported for Bloomberg Technology.
“Another person familiar with the situation said there are other markings to identify the glass.”
Even though some are citing these incidents as the latest example of Apple’s flawed “form over function” design philosophy, to us the problem mostly just sounds amusing, and is probably not a fatal design flaw of the ludicrous-yet-stunning Apple campus.
“The achievement is to make a building where so many people can connect and collaborate and walk and talk,” Apple’s design chief Jonathan Ive told Steven Levy at Wired last year.
Well, as long as they walk carefully and really, really watch where they’re going.